Monday, December 6, 2010

Shrine of St. Therese

                It was a few years ago, on my second visit to Juneau, that I had the opportunity to visit the St. Therese Shrine out past the ferry terminal. It must have been in April or May because I was on my way home to Haines for the summer. I had a ticket for the but-crack-of-dawn ferry with my car and meager belongings. Not wanting to miss the early wake-up, I decided to stay awake throughout the night by drinking at the bar. Well, the bars closed at 2am and I still had a few hours before I could board the boat, so I headed out to the Shrine to do some sightseeing.
                I arrived at the place as just as the sun was starting to peek over the mountains, casting the densely forested area around the mission in an eerie light. Undaunted by the creepiness, I walked down the path from the parking lot towards the shrine. I went to the mission/church and was disappointed to find the doors locked so I started to walk the Stations of the Cross. It took me a few tries to find the beginning due to my slightly intoxicated state, but I finally managed to find the start point. I admired the workmanship of each station as I tried to remember from my CCD classes from my youth which one would come next.
                I had almost made the entire circuit when I heard what I believed to be a baby cry.
                “Hello? Is there someone there?” I asked into the silence of the trees. There was no response and I hadn’t heard or seen anyone else during my trek out to the shrine. I poked around some more, blowing off what I had heard even though it creeped me out. I walked off the hardly used path and stepped a little deeper into the surrounding trees when I heard the noise again.
                “Hey! Who’s out there?” I shouted. The only response I received was that of the wind causing the branches of the trees to creak a bit. I heard the noise again which prompted me to pick up the nearest make-shift weapon that I could find.
                Now armed with a small twig, I repeated my inquiry to the forest, “Who’s out there? Quit fucking with me!” I looked down at the pathetic branch clutched in my hand and dropped it to the ground as I looked for something more substantial. “What the fuck?” I said to myself, “how can there be no sticks in the forest?” I gave up on trying to arm myself and decided to find the culprit instead.
             I heard the noise again and immediately ran to where I thought the sound to be coming from. There was nothing and no one there. I heard the noise again, this time, from where I had just run from. I ran back to where I was before and still found no one there.
It was then that I looked up into the trees and spotted a raven about twenty feet above sitting on a branch.
“Hey, stupid bird. What are you doing?” I couldn’t believe that I was trying to speak to a bird, I was a little tipsy and sleep deprived though. That’s when the raven opened its beak and mimicked the sound that I had been hearing.
“What the…? Stupid fucking bird. Scared the hell out of me.” I picked up the nearest twig and hurled it at the trickster raven. I missed of course and the raven launched into the air and flew away. I haven’t been back to the shrine since.

Qatar 2006

While on my first deployment to Afghanistan I and three of my buddies got the opportunity to go to Qatar in Saudi Arabia for some R&R. I was new to the Army still and had only formed friendships with my fellow mechanics and a few of the Joes from the Earth-Mover platoon. Their job was to make dirt roads between the various villages in country and my job was to fix the many vehicles they broke each day. They would operate, and I would subsequently repair, construction equipment such as Dozers, Graders, Dump-trucks, Vibe-rollers, and Scrapers, not to mention the tractor-trailer combinations that hauled the equipment to and from the job sites.
                I had met a fellow Alaskan from the EM Platoon who turned out to have the same smart-assed sense of humor that I had. Needless to say, we hit it off and were ecstatic when we learned that we would be going to Qatar together. A senior mechanic in my platoon was to accompany us; he was the kind of guy who could jerry-rig the equipment in order to get it back on the road. The third member of our motley crew was a Mormon fella who was also a member of the EM platoon.
                We had all been in country for about nine months and, as far as I knew, none of us had partaken in the consumption of alcohol during those months. The first thing we asked after getting off the C-130 transport plane was, “Where is the bar?” Most of the other Joes who had traveled to Qatar wanted to see the sights or engage in some good, wholesome fun, i.e. dune buggy rides, shopping at the Saudi mall, or swimming/snorkeling. Not us representatives of Alpha Company though. We were there to drink until we fell down- one of my favoritest games. Like I said before, there was a Mormon guy with us and he proved to be invaluable. Qatar is a military run base, and as such, it has certain rules for the Joes who visit. The main rule is that there is a three drink maximum. Lame. We figured out a way around this technicality though, have the Mormon guy, who did not drink alcohol as per his religious beliefs, buy his three drinks and give them to us. This worked out perfectly… until we had drunk our fourth beer.
                We found out another way to consume more than the three allotted beers, we petitioned other Joes for their beer tickets. Normally, after showing your military ID card and paying ten dollars for your drinks, your name and last four were entered into the computer to ensure the adhering to of the three drink max. My fellow Alaskan and I had more cash than common sense and proceeded to procure beer tickets to the tune of ten to twenty dollars apiece. Thus, we were able to get extremely blitzed every night.
                Now, for some reason or another, when I get wasted, I develop a Scottish accent. I refer to myself as Kevin and am fearless when hollerin’ at the ladies. The other Alaskan decided to partake in the accent but adopted one from the U.K. and proclaimed to be from Manchesta’ True to form, four of the seven female US soldiers at the bar found themselves drawn towards our table. We held their attention the entire night until we were asked to leave by the Military Police- we were having too much fun, I guess. The very next night, we decided to use our normal American accents to see if the ladies would still come around. Nope, not a one sat with us. After partaking in more than a few beers, our accents re-emerged and the ladies, though puzzled, yet inebriated, found themselves at our table once again as we regaled them with B.S. stories from our respective homelands.
                Just goes to show you, I guess, that men aren’t the only superficial ones amongst the humans.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kids say the funniest things

    I have a son who is nine years old and I'm praying that he won't get into the same shenanigans that I did when I was his age. Most people say that he is a miniature version of me and that he is a very entertaining child. A few years ago, when I was living in WA with the family, I came home for lunch from work even though I had already eaten the sandwich and chips I had brought with me. Since I had about an hour to kill at home, I decided that it would be a good idea to try and seduce my wife into some afternoon delight.
    She conceded to my request after much protesting about the boy being home and awake. I had laid her fears to rest by putting cartoons on for my son and making him some popcorn- he loves the stuff. After making sure that he had everything that he could possibly need, I left him to his ‘toons and proceeded upstairs to my bedroom.
    My wife and I were “practicing” for only a few minutes when we heard the boy yell something from the T.V. room. Naturally, we ceased our activity and remained motionless as the following exchange took place.
    “Did you hear that?” I asked
    “Yes, Caleb yelled something.” she said.
    “What did he say?” I asked.
    She replied incredulously, “I don’t know! This stupid bed makes so much noise.”
    We resumed, well, I resumed my activity for only a few moments before I stopped due to my son’s yelling from downstairs.
    This time, I heard what he was yelling, “Stop jumping on the bed! I can’t hear the T.V.!”
     My wife was absolutely mortified, and I couldn’t help but laugh.
    “Get off me!” she said as I continued to laugh, knowing that the moment was very much over.
    “What’s the big deal,” I teased, “it’s not like he knows what we’re doing up here.”
    That’s when I heard the boy running up the stairs.
   “Shit,” my wife said, “did you lock the bedroom door?”
    I stopped laughing because I realized that in my haste, I had indeed neglected to lock the door. I flew off the bed in my birthday suit and lunged for the door knob and pushed in the little button that locks the door just as my son tried to come in.
   “Hey!” he exclaimed, “why did you lock me out? And how come you guys get to jump on the bed and I get yelled at when I do it?”
   With my hand still clutching the door knob, I yelled through the door, “Go watch your toons Caleb.”
   “I can’t ‘cause you guys are jumping on the bed and making a lot of noise.”
   “Just go downstairs!” I said. I heard him walking away and quickly put my wife’s robe on. I followed him downstairs and turned the T.V. volume up to blaring.
    “There, now you can hear your toons.” I told him.
    He just gave me a perplexing look, probably due to my pink, silky attire, but settled down on the couch and continued to watch his toons. I returned upstairs in hopes of salvaging my alone-time with my wife.
    No such luck though. She was already dressed and was in the process of fixing her mussed-up hair. She saw the look of disappointment on my face and simply said, “We need a new bed, one that doesn’t make noise.” She patted me on my head as she passed by me in the doorway and told me that I was going to be late for work if I didn’t take her robe off and get dressed. So much for afternoon delight.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fangoria magazine and clown dolls

       I was but a wee lad at the time of this story, about seven or eight years old. My family loved scary movies and I was sometimes allowed to watch them with my older sisters. I had recently watched the movie Poltergeist that came out on the early eighties and came to the conclusion that I was deathly afraid of clowns. Do you remember the clown of which I speak? The one in the boys bedroom that hopped down from the chair and scurried under his bed. Anyway, the clown tried to strangle the boy with its red and white stripped arms... freaked me the fuck out. Well, my sister, whom I affectionately called Ee-ka, was totally into scary stuff and loved to scare the bejeesus out of me and my younger brother almost an a daily basis. She had acquired from somewhere, a clown puppet that bore a striking resemblance to the clown in the movie.
    Normally, my sister would wait for my brother and me in our room underneath our bunk bed. My younger brother and I would finish brushing our teeth and saunter down the hallway to our room. We took turns turning off the bedroom light, one day, I would wait for him to get safely into the bottom bunk before turning the light off and running to jump onto the ladder to the top bunk. It was my turn this particular night. I don't know if it was the fact that both my brother and I suffered from short term memory loss or the fact that we were just, as my dad often said, brain damaged, but we never once checked under the bed for my sister. Just after I turned the light off and closed the bedroom door, I heard a shuffle from under the bed.
    I immediately froze, "Todd, did you do that?"
    "No." he said from underneath his blanket.
    Not wanting to turn the light back on for fear of seeing what had caused the noise, I leaped the three or so feet from the door to the ladder and slammed my shin on one of the rungs. Fearing for my life, I ignored the pain and scrambled up the rest of the way and barricaded myself under my blankets. Silence ensued for the next few moments only to be broken my the loud beating of my scared little heart. Then, I heard it... it was just a whisper barely audible over my panicked breathing.
    I started to recite, "Hail Mary, full of grace... crap, I forgot what comes next. Hail Mary full of grace. Our Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou..."
    "Dennissss...Dennissss," now the whisper sounded more like a ghostly moan.
   I tried to recite the prayer louder and could hear my younger brother crying as quietly as he could. The whisper had gotten louder with each repetition and I could sense that it was coming, not from under the bed anymore, but from right next to my covered head. Now, this may seem like a dick thing to do, but I stopped praying and remained quiet in hopes that whatever was calling my name would ignore me and focus its attention of my quietly sobbing little brother.
    No luck, the voice got louder, "Dennissss...Dennissss!"
    I figured that if I was gonna die this night, that I might as well satisfy my curiosity and decided to take a peek from beneath my blankets. Bad move...really bad move. My room was dark, but the venetian blinds let in a small amount of moonlight, just enough for me to see that God-damned clown with its puppet mouth moving in sync while it called out my name. I tried to scream. My mouth was open, but only a strangled hiss was coming out, that is, until I inhaled and tried to scream again. This time, I sounded like the scream-queens from the movies that I had watched in the past. It was epic.
    My scream had scared the puppet and my sister to scream in response and my brother had decided to scream out as well. The clown disappeared and there was a scrambling towards the bedroom door by my sister. But before she could get to the door, it swung open into the room and she ran square into the edge and crumpled to the floor. My dad had been in the living room watching the boob-tube and ran down the hallway to see what the matter was. As the light from the hallway flooded into my bedroom, I looked towards my door to see my dad standing there, doorknob in hand, looking perplexed. He told me and my brother to calm down and go back to sleep and proceeded to pick my unconscious sister, who had released the damned clown puppet. As my dad turned to leave, I noticed that he was shutting the door with the clown still in my room.
    "Dad! don't leave the clown in here! Please!" I said through bouts of heaving sobs. He stopped, turned around and gave me a blank stare. He must have seen the absolute terror in my eyes because he sighed and stooped to pick up the clown and then shut my door.
     I didn't see that effing clown after that, I guess my dad got rid of it in order to be able to watch T.V. in peace. My sister got yelled at when she finally woke up the next morning and was grounded for a week and told to stay out of our room. The only plus to the story was that my sister had a huge black, blue, and purple goose-egg on her forehead for weeks and was mortified when she had to go to school.

The Cult

     I was a freshman at the University of Anchorage and the year was 1993. Halfway through the Fall semester, I was attempting to reorganise my notebook when I noticed that another student was speaking to me. He was a quiet fellow who spoke in a pronounced up talk style (stressing the last syllable of every word). I looked up from what I was doing and said hello. He seemed to me to be somewhat awkward in his mannerism and social skills, but I asked him what he wanted. It turned out that he was trying to invite me to a bible study on Wednesday. Having been raised a Catholic and having studied the Bible as literature in high school, I agreed to his invite.
    Wednesday rolled around and I found myself at the Spenard Rec. Center off of Minnesota Drive. There were only a handful of cars in the large parking lot, so I assumed that I was early and proceeded in. I wasn't early; there were only ten or so twenty-somethings in attendance and I was the only one who was a guest. I, being a young single guy in the AK, noticed that the guy to girl ratio was promising. There were four or five pretty girls and six or so guys. I was immediately approached by the entirety of the congregation and was welcomed to the group with genuine acceptance. This, of course, made me feel good. Rob was the one who invited me out, so it was he who introduced me to the rest of the gang. I felt like a part of something good and being that I was having troubles on the home front, I was relieved to feel so much caring and, dare I say, love, from my new-found friends.
    As the weeks turned into months, I started to spend all of my free time with the fellowship and was ignoring my two best friends in the process. My mom noticed a change in by behavior- for the better- and said that she was glad that I had found something to fill the void in my life. My dad, on the other hand, being a strict Catholic, wasn't too thrilled with my new found faith. He decided that as long as I kept my grades up and stayed out of trouble, he wouldn't have a problem with me. I was attending church at the rec-center twice a week on Sunday and Wednesday, and was praying before each meal (like my family used to do).
    Eventually, my holier than thou attitude started to affect my already precarious relationship with my family. I was trying to convince my family to see the light of my church, which was called the Greatland Christian Church, but they ridiculed me and called me a Bible-thumper and said that I had been brainwashed. Of course, my pastor told me that this was a common reaction of the non-believers. One day, my dad came to me and said that he had seen on the t.v. show 60 minutes, an expose on a church that started up in Boston. It was called the Boston Movement and was accused of blackmailing its members who tried to leave the flock. He asked me to find out more about my church and said that he hoped that it wasn't affiliated with the Boston Movement. It occurred to me that it probably was due to the fact that before I could be baptised into the church, I had to compile a Sin List. The list was to begin at my earliest remembrance of breaking one of the Ten Commandments. I of course didn't list everything that I had done, mainly due to the statute of limitation on some of the shenanigans I had partaken in in my youth. I did say that I had stolen candy and toys as a child and had constantly disobeyed my parents and had pretty much been a little shit for most of my life. Then there was the case of touching ones self in an inappropriate manner, a 'menage a uno' kind of thing. They were all but salivating at the anticipation of reading how often a day and how many days a week I embarked upon this journey. I felt a little uncomfortable because of the pretty girls in the flock, but was assured that each of the ten or so members had completed a list of their own and had felt better for it. They were right about feeling better, I wasn't ashamed of my actions but was remorseful. They accepted me for who I was and solidified my bond with the Church.
     Back to the Boston Movement. I asked my pastor about the origins of the church and about the stories in the media. He confirmed my suspicions and replied that sometimes drastic measures had to be taken in order to save souls. I asked about the morality of blackmail and he said that God works through his disciples in many ways and that the path to Hell was full of good intentions. The pastor then asked me why I had not been giving very much money during the collections at church. I reminded him that I was a college student, still living at home and had no income nor allowance. He said that he understood, but that it was important to sacrifice my comfort in the name of God. I took this with a grain of salt and said that I would try.
    The months wore on and I was beginning to see a pattern in the 'recruitment prospects'. I noticed that there were no families being invited to church nor the elderly or down-and-out. All I ever saw were social misfits who seemed to need a place where they could belong. I asked my pastor about our demographics and he told me that the old were set in their ways and that couples with children didn't have time for church. WTF? I grilled him about the need to save everyone and not just those who were easy targets with money from mommy and daddy. He had no reply and told me to think and pray to God for forgiveness at having questioned His authority. Okey-dokey. I was starting to see through the mist of blind-faith and decided to challenge everything that I had been told.
    I started inviting homeless people to church and was met with outrage for my actions from the flock. I then asked them if it was not our mission to save every soul that we could for the glory of God, and was this mans soul not worth saving. They couldn't argue with my logic until my pastor escorted the homeless man out of the rec-center and told us all that the man had given up on God a long time ago. I, being raised Catholic, still remembered God as a forgiving person... no matter what you had done. I told the flock what I thought and said that I had had enough. I started to leave and the pastor asked to speak with me in private. I agreed.
    We talked about my waning faith and my errant behavior, then he pulled out a piece of paper... it was my Sin List. He said that he would hate to have to release the information to my family and friends and that I should reconsider my choice of leaving. He said that I was one of the most charismatic people he had ever met and that I had great potential in the church. This sounded kinda like a bribe to me but I was dead-set in my decision. I told him that I hadn't listed everything on my list because of the statute of limitations thing and informed him that I knew were he and his wife lived and that I had been a bit of a pyrotechnics geek in my youth and that I was fascinated with fire. His eyes went wide and he handed me my list. I took it, stood up, and left the room. On my way out, some of the girls were crying while the guys were talking quietly to Rob, my sponsor.
    I had been with the church for almost a year and had ostracized myself from my family and friends. I had a lot of patching up to do and vowed to disrupt the efforts of the church's recruitment practices every chance I got. I eventually moved from Anchorage and never saw the flock again.

Friday, October 29, 2010

True Story

Sorry I've been away for some time... tons of papers to write that affect my degree plan. Anyhoo, being that it's Halloween time, I figured that I would regale my small audience with a tale that I have limited to only close, personal friends... like those of you who follow my adventurous tales. I was living on Elmendorf AFB in Anchortown, AK. My closest sister in age had complained to my dad that she thought someone was lurking in our duplex basement house. Being "the favoritest" of my dad's six kids, my sister got her way when she requested that I sleep on a military-style cot in the basement in an adjacent room. The house had only one bedroom in the basement. There was a half bath and a kind of living room with a washer and dryer room on the way to the upstairs. The year was 1991ish, I don't recall the exact year, all I know is that I was in high school. After much protesting from me, my dad all but ordered me to sleep in the basement in the living room. I have always believed in the unknown out of principal: if it couldn't be disproved, then it must exist. Well, before complaining to my dad, my sister had accused me of turning off her stereo and turning off her bedroom lights while she was brushing her teeth in the half-bath before going to bed. I adamantly stuck to the truth that I never did the things that she claimed that I did to no avail. She had confided in me that she heard children's whispers and quiet laughter during and after these occurrences. Needless to say, I was freaked-the-fuck out at what my sister had told me. I agreed to sleep in the basement for fear on my dad's wrath if I didn't oblige. I decided that I didn't want to experience any kind of encounter with "the dead children" no matter how friendly they might be. I plugged a set of head phones into the stereo in the downstairs living room that I was to sleep in. I had the volume up high so as to not hear the ghost's whispering or giggling. I, being raised a Catholic, said a prayer to the children, "Please, children, I mean you no harm. I am only here because my dad told me to be. I don't wish to interfere with you, nor do I care what you are here to do. Please leave me alone and please stop messing with my sister. We are Catholic and we know people who can exorcise you from this place... not that I would tell annyony of your existence... it's just that I don't really want to be here and that if you would stop what you are doing, then we could all get along. Sorry... Amen, I guess."
        I fell asleep to a mixed tape that I had  created with numerous versions of "You down with O.P.P.?" and the like. All of a sudden, just before I lost consciouseness, the stereo turned off. "Ha, ha, verry funny Todd. I know you're down here." My younger brother had inquired about my absence from his room and figured out that I was on "ghost patroll." No laughter answered my response. Strange. I removed my headphones and walked towards the hallway leading to the up stairs. Nothing. I noticed faint footprints on the concrete floor. They distinctly belonged to children and led away from the bathroom. I quickly made the sign of the cross over my abdomen, forehead and shoulders. I ran back to my cot and covered my head with my blankets. "Please, ghosts, I don't want to interfere. If you let me be, I'll let you be."
       I woke the next morning weary and unsure. I reported to my dad that I hadn't noticed anything out of the ordinary. My sister and I caught the bus to school without a word.
     I skipped the last two classes as usual, and decided to see my dad at work at the base hospital. I entered his office and decided to ask as to why he wanted me to sleep in the basement the night before. His answer came in the form of a question, "So, did you see or hear anything? Are you sure you didn't you notice anything out of the ordinary?" Not wanting to sleep in the basement again, I answered that I hadn't. I did, however,  inquire as to why he was asking such questions. He told me that he had checked into the history of the duplex we were living in. It turned out that there had been two young children who had died in the very same house. Ten years earlier, a young mother had decided to give her children a bath in the basement. The bathtub having been removed and a shower stall installed when we lived there. She had apparently left her two young children, a three year old boy and four year old girl, in the tub as she answered the door upstairs. The two children had drowned before their mother could return to check on them. When my dad told me this my face must have gone pale because he asked me what was wrong. I told him what I had seen and what my sister had heard. The wet footprints and the childrens laughter and whispers. He told me not to worry about it. WTF, how could I not? Six months later, we moved out of the duplex and it has since been torn down.

Monday, October 4, 2010

How does Mrs Andrews do it?

Hello again. I'm here to tell a tale of which I'm sure we all have some version of. A tale of fancy and make believe. A tale of flight, with nothing more than our childhood imagination and an umbrella.
    I was probably six or seven years old living of the Air Force base in Fairbanks, AK. It was an unusually warm summer, maybe an 'Indian Summer,' maybe not, but it sure was windy the night my parents decided to leave my eldest sister in charge of the five of us maniacs. Well, I guess that my younger brother and myself would be considered the maniacs and that my three older sisters would more likely be categorized as 'little princesses,' while my youngest brother, still being a baby, would fall into the 'poopin and eating' category. It must have been a special weekend though, because my parents almost never had any time to go out without us kids in tow like so much baggage. My sister, being the eldest, was in charge of feeding all of us dinner that fateful night, the boys usually got one thing to eat, while the girls got something better. I wont lie to you, I don't recall what me and my brother were served for supper, but I'm sure it was along the lines of peanut butter, jelly and mushroom sandwiches. All of us kids hated mushrooms, and any time the girls could get one over on their 'stupid' brothers, they would try. My brother and me, being 'trusting,' not stupid, would always accept what we were given without complaint. That is, until we would bite into a mushroom and totally freak out to the laughter and satisfaction of our sisters. They would say their sorry's and take the unfinished sandwiches away, promising to make us something normal to eat. We, of course being trusting, would accept their apologies and wait hungrily at the dinner table while they three went into the kitchen to fix us food. Again, they came out with sandwiches, but this time we both pried the bread apart to make sure that there weren't any mushrooms inside. Everything looked in order, so I told my brother to take a bite of his PBJ. He didn't gag or anything, so I dug in. Our three darling sisters just stood there watching us eat. I asked why they weren't eating and they replied that they had already eaten. Because I was jaw-jackin, my brother was three-quarters of the way through his sandwich while I had only taken a few bites. He stopped eating and his mouth fell open as his face turned red. The little darlings had put jalapeno juice in our sandwiches and my brother had gotten to his first. This would go on for as many times as my sisters could come up with new and torturous ways to make us eat things that we normally wouldn't. Usually, they would run out of bread by the time me and my brother would refuse to eat anything else. But I digress, enough about my scheming sisters and their unnatural enjoyment at our palatal suffering, on to the flights of fancy.
    After dinner, we all noticed that the wind was really blowing, branches of trees littered the front, side and back yard of our duplex at the end of our road. We heard the thunder and could see the sky light up as lightning streaked across the sky. Strangely, though, it wasn't raining. Intrigued, me and my brother bolted outside to see if the lightning was near. Our curiosity was contagious as our sisters joined us in the driveway. My eldest sister holding my youngest brother in her arms. We counted the seconds between the flashes in the sky until we heard the thunder, a trick our dad had taught us to see how close the storm was. Two seconds, the storm was almost on top of us. My eldest sister, realizing the danger, yelled at us to get back inside, just as a gust of wind slammed the front door shut behind her. Now we were locked out of the house in the middle of a thunder-storm. The garage door was unlocked, however, so me and my brother opened it up just enough to let us inside. My sisters, thinking that we were trying to get out of the storm, decided to follow. Only, just as they were entering, me and my brother were exiting with umbrellas in hand. We had seen Mary Poppins in recent years and always wondered if it was possible to fly just as she did in the movies. My sisters tried in vain to explain the difference between movies and reality to me and my brother. We weren't having it. It seemed like a sound idea that one could, if not outright fly, float down to the ground safely with the aid of an umbrella.
    We made our way to the roof via the birch tree in the front yard. The side of the house had a twelve foot drop to the grass below and this is where we attempted our first flight. I made my brother go first, obviously, and he landed pretty hard, but had let go of his umbrella halfway down. I jumped off and held onto my umbrella the whole way down. I landed on my feet and rolled onto my face. Well, that didn't go as expected.
I figured that we didn't have enough distance between us and the ground for the wind to get under the umbrella, so we tried again. This time, we jumped as high as we could as we launched ourselves off the roof. The same outcome. Maybe we need to jump from the back of the house. We scrambled onto the roof again and walked to the back of the house. The distance was about thirty feet to the grass. We thought about what such a fall would do to our fragile bodies and I had just convinced my younger brother to go first when a Military Police car pulled into our driveway with his lights on. Just as my brother was about to jump, the cop turned on his siren in an effort to stop us. It worked. He yelled at us to get down off the roof and to get back inside the house. That's when my sisters came pouring out from the garage and explained that we were locked out and that we couldn't get a hold of our parents. After me and my brother came down off the roof, the cop asked us what in God's name we thought we were doing, to wich we replied that we were trying to fly like Marry Poppins. He just shook his head and laughed as he ran his hand down over his face and mumbled something about getting his wifes tubes tied.
    My parents finally came home and we were all back inside the house as my dad talked to the cop. They were both laughing as the cop finally drove away. I didn't get in trouble for trying to fly, but I did get in trouble for being of the roof that day.
    I hope that one day I'll be able to fly like Marry Poppins, but that I should probably explain to my own son the difference between movies and reality.

Friday, September 24, 2010


   Hello again. Thought I'd regale you all with another story about my boring, uneventful childhood. Here goes.
   I was probably about ten years old, it was summer-time up if Fairbanks, or as I fondly call it, Square-banks, and I was playing with my cheepo bow and arrow set. I had asked for a BB gun to no avail, can't figure out why...
   Anyways, there I was, shooting arrows at a tree in my yard from my 15 pound-draw bow, wishing that I was Rambo, when it suddenly accrued to me that I could make exploding arrows if I only tried. Being the resourceful little fella that I was, I went into our basement to my dad's bullet reloading room. He was a huge time hunter in the 80's so he had lots of bullets and casings and gunpowder all over the place. Not that he ever left his stuff unlocked though, I just happened to know where he kept the key for the door. So there I was, in a room filled with all kinds of 'candy' I figured that the bigger the bullet, the bigger the bang, so I grabbed a handful of rifle ammo as well as some shot-gun shells.
   I understood the basics of ammunition and hot to shoot because my dad had taken me out shooting the summer before. I was shooting an old survival 22-20 over-under breakdown rifle. The 22 referring to the caliber of the top barrel and the 20 referring to the gauge of the lower barrel. I was mostly shooting the .22 caliber rounds that day, the 20 gauge shotgun shell that I shot at the end of the day comes back to explain something later in the story.
   So I had the arrows and the 'explosive tips' and all I needed now was a way to hold them both together. Duct tape. I attached a rifle round to the end of my arrow so that the primer, or thingy that the firing pin in a gun hits to ignite the powder in the bullet, was centered with the pointy tip of the arrow. After many failures and alterations to my design, I decided to use the 12 gauge shotgun shells instead.
   Still in the side-yard by my house, I thought that it would be prudent of me to continue my 'experiments' elsewhere. I went down the street, away from prying eyes, to the seldom used u-shaped road that connected my street to the street a few blocks away. I found a sizable birch tree ten feet away to test my improved arrow on, drew the string of my bow back and just then, a little, quiet voice said, "Remember the kick."
   The rest of the story about me shooting with my dad for the first time comes back into play here. It was getting kinda dark, meaning that it was actually very late, and I wanted to shoot the 20 gauge portion of the rifle I had been shooting all day. For those of you who have never fired a .22 caliber gun, there is no kick-back into the shoulder, which is why kids love to shoot it. A 20 gauge shell, though smaller than it's more popular big brother the 12 gauge, kicks a lot. A hell of a lot for a scrawny ten year old. So my dad finally relents to my request and decides at that time to teach me one of many of his 'Life Lessons' When I asked him if it was going to kick, he did not lie, he said that it was gonna kick a lot. However, he then instructed me to hold the butt, or the end of the rifle that is supposed to be tucked into your shoulder, about two inches away from my skin-and-bone shoulder. Now, I'm no genius, and I almost never listen, let alone remember what my dad tells me, but I did recall that the butt of the rifle is supposed to be held firm against your shoulder even if I didn't know the reason why. I voiced my concern to him and he replied that due to the power of the kick, the extra distance between my shoulder and the butt would lessen the impact. Oh, sure.    
   I aimed at a can about fifteen feet away and pulled the trigger. BLAM. The rifle slams into my shoulder and I immediately lose all control of my right arm. The gun barrel is now dragging in the dirt as I fight back the waves of pain radiating down my arm. My dad is yelling at me to get the barrel out of the dirt and I reply that I can't because my arm is broken. I did manage to hit the can, as my dad so fondly pointed out to me as he laughed and removed the rifle from my now tingling fingers.
   That was how I found out about the kick. So I released the tension on my bowstring and stepped a few more feet back. I wanted to be far enough back that the recoil of the shotgun shell wouldn't send shrapnel flying back into my face. I figured that I was far enough back and fired at the tree. Well, I missed the tree and effed up my arrow. Having only one exploding arrow left, I decided to shoot it straight up into the air so that it came down on the seldom used street that I was standing on. So that's exactly what I did. After I fired the arrow, I ran to take cover near a culvert twenty feet away. As I lay waiting for the impact, my ears heard the familiar crunch of gravel under a cars tire. Shit, there was a car rounding the corner and it just so happened to be a military police cruiser. Double shit. As the arrow got closer to the ground, the cop car came closer to where the arrow was going to hit. Triple shit. The arrow came down and exploded about five or six feet in front of the cop car. There was nothing but a hole in the asphalt and a few errant fragments of my wooden arrow. The cop slammed on his brakes and jumped our of his car with his hand on his gun. He looked around quickly with the most surprised look on his face before jumping back into his cruiser and speeding away with the lights on.
   Thankful that I hadn't been caught, I decided to high-tail it home. As I strolled up our driveway, bow in hand, my dad was standing there with a look on his face that said, "I just got done talking to a cop." Fudge.
(I never said the F word until later on in life). Needless to say, my dad knew that I was responsible for whatever had scared the hell out of that cop, even though he wasn't sure how.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In the beginning

     I was born in the mid 70's to a strict military father and a very understanding mother. At the time of my entrance into this world, I had three older sisters, each of whom had a unique way of treating me during my childhood. Five years later, I had two younger brothers, the first of which was only two years younger than I, and it is with my first brother that I shared countless adventures and misfortunes with. This blog will delve into my past experiences and "life-lessons," all of which are either humorous or enlightening, depending upon how you, as the reader, perceives them. There will not be any real order to my stories due to the fact that I often will begin one recollection and find myself reliving a different event entirely. Chock it up to A.D.D. I suppose. ooh, a chicken! Now, if you were anything like I was growing up, you will be able to identify with most of my memories... if you were, on the other hand, a delight to both your parents and teachers, then you will most likely just shake your head upon reading further and wonder why I was allowed to continue in my private world of mischief.
     Its hard to think back to the earliest occasion in which my mental stability was questioned, but I do remember one time when I was living in Fairbanks, AK... It was probably during the month of December, I was about six years old and remember playing outside in front of my house on the Air Force base. I had my first brother with me and two or three other friends from the other side of Base, (none of the kids in my neighborhood were allowed to play with me, according to their mothers anyway) We were "playing in traffic" as my dad had so often told us to do. The snow removal guys had made this huge berm down the middle of the road so that the snow-thrower truck could shoot it into the back of waiting dump-trucks or, if there were woods on the one side of the street, he could just shoot all the snow into them.
     The workers were either on lunch or a union break, either way, they weren't around. So we decided to utilize the berm and proceeded to hollow out spots in it to hide in, kinda like snow-forts. We played for a while until one of the dump-truck drivers came back and told us to clear out because the snow-thrower was coming and that we might get sucked in, chewed up, and shot out into the woods in a spray of pink mess. He grinned at our shocked silence and drove away.
     Instead of heeding the mans warning, I decided that it would be funny to let the snow-thrower driver think that he had indeed sucked one of us into his machine. I took off my hat and threw it into one of the holes we had dug and persuaded my friends to contribute other items of clothing, my brother donated one of his "moon-boots" to our cause. We also buried one of our 'cheepo' plastic sleds, but we needed something more, something that would make a "spray of pink mess" I went into my house to ask my mom if she had any red food coloring, she answered, never turning her attention away from the dirty dishes in the sink, that she only had a small bottle and that I couldn't have it. She did, however, direct my attention to the garage which might contain some paint.
     Now, some of you might be wondering why my mom never thought to inquire as to the reason for my strange request, and I would have to venture the guess that, it wasn't that she didn't care what I was up too, it was that she knew that I was always careful and had a good reason for asking about such things.
     Back to the garage. I searched all sorts and manner of containers and finally came upon a few plastic jugs with the letters ATF on the label. ATF, in this case did not stand for Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, but automatic transmission fluid. In any case, it was red and there was enough for me to complete my joke. I brought it out of the garage and buried it with the sled and clothing. We all sat down on the curb ten feet away and waited. The familiar sound of the big commercial diesel truck caught our attention as we all turned our heads in unison to see the approaching snow-thrower. The driver noticed us all watching intently and smiled as he gave a short blast of his air-horn. We smiled and waved back at the driver just as he overtook our little sled and it was sucked into the blades, along with the ATF and clothing. The sound the sled made as it was churned up and spat out of the shoot made was distinct enough that it directed the drivers attention to the snow coming out of the shoot just as the ATF turned most of the snow pink. He quickly shut down his truck and jumped out, thinking that he had just run over some unlucky kid. At first, we laughed so hard that we had tears in our eyes that quickly froze to our eye lashes. The driver, obviously still in shock, had no idea what to make of the situation. He had just stood there looking into the woods across the street. Upon seeing this, my friends took off to their prospective houses, leaving me and my brother there to explain our "joke" to the driver. We didn't get the chance to explain anything due to the fact that my dad had just turned the corner and was driving home from work. I immediately ran off into the woods across the street with my brother close behind and one boot short.
     I can only imagine what my dad told the driver of the snow-thrower, or if the man ever recovered from the incident, I do remember coming home later, sending my brother in before me, to my dad and his belt... everything gets a little blurry after that. That is what I fondly recall, The snow plow incident.